Why do people react differently to similar situations? How does personal motivation affect our reactions?
There are answers to the questions in a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. The study consisted of two stages: a naturalistic experiment and a study of tweets.
As part of the first stage, 107 participants of the experiment were shown images with political overtones that could provoke unpleasant emotions—burning the national flag, torturing prisoners and so on. At the same time, they were told that other people react aggressively to these images.
In the second phase, the researchers analyzed 19 million tweets—short messages on Twitter. These were written by people in response to the news about the shooting by a police officer of a black teenager Michael Brown in the city of Ferguson in 2014. This incident caused a sharp reaction of society at the national level. Researchers have found that Twitter users are strongly influenced by other people’s emotions expressed online. Under the angry messages, even more aggressive and angry messages appeared en masse, that is, the initial emotion was repeatedly amplified. This fact suggests that through messages in social networks, we emotionally signal about belonging to a certain social group and sharing its interests and moods.
A person’s tendency to experience a certain range of emotions creates the environment. He/she will choose friends to match him/herself and join related communities and groups. All of this suggests that we are looking for support that corresponds to our initial emotions. People are drawn to their kind. If there are problems in the emotional sphere, the best way to deal with them is to start changing your environment, both in real life and on social networks.